Delicious 5-Minute Ranch Dip/Dressing

ranch dip_Fotor

Confession… I am not a veggie lover, especially cooked veggies.  I have PTSD from my parents making me sit at the dinner table until all of my veggies were eaten.  I would gag several times while trying to swallow them and would eventually have to wash them down with milk.  As an adult, I have learned to eat them, but have never really enjoyed them much. That being said – I LOVE raw veggies dipped in Ranch! Not just any ranch… It has to be the ranch dip in the little packets mixed with sour cream.  I can eat raw broccoli all day long as long as it’s dipped in ranch.  Our youngest son unfortunately has not yet acquired a taste for veggies either, so I always have a baggie of fresh, cut up veggies in the fridge.  I make him take at least one bite of whatever vegetable we are having with dinner and if he doesn’t like it, he is allowed to grab a handful of raw veggies out of the fridge to eat them.  And he does.  He really likes them raw, dipped in ranch, just like me. And as long as he is getting the vitamins, I really am not too concerned with him gagging down the ones I have prepared for dinner.

So, after years of paying the “Hidden Valley” prices ($2-3/pack), I stumbled upon this recipe from http://www.thedailyblarg.com/2013/01/simple-homemade-ranch-dip-recipe.html  and now I make my own!  This recipe is even better than the little ranch packets and probably costs less than $.25 to make.  I always have all of these spices on hand, so, as long as I have some sour cream, I’m in business! I use the low-fat sour cream too so I can feel better about eating an entire tub of dip :).

Ingredients:

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayo (I leave this out and add 1/2 cup extra sour cream and it is still wonderful, your choice)

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dill weed (Some of you may not have this in your pantry.  Get some because you are going to be making this a lot! And it’s wonderful on fish too!!!)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp ground pepper

1 tsp salt (I find that 1/2 tsp is plenty salty  so start off with 1/2 tsp and add more if needed)

Directions:

ingredients

If you have time to let the dip rest in the fridge for an hour or more, you can just combine all of the ingredients and you’re done.

Herbswet herbs

If you are wanting to have it right away, mix the dill, salt and parsley with two teaspoons of hot water.  This will allow the flavors of those herbs to bloom.

mix with sour creamdipping cucumber

Let stand for one minute and then mix with the rest of the spices and sour cream (and mayo of you prefer it).    That’s it! Way too easy, right? Enjoy with your favorite fresh veggies!

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Pumpkin Week!!! Homemade Pumpkin Puree

I can’t wait for each and every recipe I have coming up for you this week.  I am a huge fan of pumpkin everything so I have more than enough FABULOUS recipes to give you a full week’s worth of pumpkin heaven.

With my hubby gone hunting and the rainy season started, the boys and I decided we would head down to our local farm stand and pick up some sugar pie pumpkins for a day full of baking.    They had so much fun getting all of the “guts” out of the pumpkins and separating all of the seeds so we could roast them.

Now, I can honestly say, I cannot taste a HUGE difference in flavor between canned pumpkin and fresh pumpkin puree, but if you are looking for a really fun, cheap fall activity to stock up on puree (which is generally pretty expensive otherwise) for the season, this is definitely worth it the effort.

Ingredients:

1-2 sugar pie (or baking) pumpkins – your local farmer or grocer will be able to point you in the right direction.  They are generally small, round, pretty smooth pumpkins with little speckles on them.
I roasted 2 pumpkins and got 10 cups of puree (which is equivalent to 5 cans of puree) and at $2/pumpkin, it is much cheaper.

Directions:

Cut pumpkin in half, vertically.  These pumpkins are generally pretty firm so be careful.  I find that a bread knife or serrated steak knife work better than my big sharp chef knives.  Cut right up to the stem on both sides then break apart with your hands.  You should then just be able to grab the stem and break it off pretty easily.

Remove the “guts” as my boys would call it.  Be sure to scrap the inside well with a spoon to remove any of the stringy pulp.  Separate the seeds into a bowl and rinse. If you fill the bowl with water, the seeds will float and the pulp will generally sink to the bottom.  Lay on a paper towel to dry.  We will be roasting them later this week 🙂

Line large cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Place pumpkin halves face down on cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for approximately 90 minutes or until pumpkins are soft.  As you can see in my pictures, one of my pumpkins cooked much faster than the other so it was extra soft after it was baked.

Cool until you can handle them safely.  The skin of the pumpkin should peel off very easily.  After you have them peeled, cut into chunks and place into a food processor or blender.

Puree until very smooth.  Using a fine mesh strainer, strain excess liquid from puree.  It seems like the puree will just run right through but it won’t.  Don’t force it through the strainer, just let it drain naturally.  Let each batch drain for several minutes. *One of my blog followers recommends in the comments below to let the puree sit in the fridge overnight.  The liquid will all come to the top while the puree sinks to the bottom so if you are not planning on using it right away, this would be a really easy option. *

If you aren’t planning on using all of your puree now, divide it into freezer bags in 2 cup portions.  I like to fold the top of the bag over before I start measuring.  This will keep the top of the bag where you need a good seal from getting all gunky.  Press the excess air from the bag, label bag and refrigerate for 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

Basil and Parmesan Orzo (Fancy Homemade Rice-O-Roni)

What a wonderful last five days it has been for me.  I love my kids more than anything, but it isn’t until I became a mother that I realized the value of absolute silence.  My boys, 4 and 6 (along with their two cousins, 6 and 9, also boys) got to take a five-day camping trip to the coast with their Grammie and Papa (Yeah, I know, they were brave grandparents).  While I missed my boys dearly and worried about them constantly, I was completely caught off guard with how much I enjoyed the silence I experienced for those five days.  No whining, no fighting, no yelling… just the faint sound of the fountain splashing in our pond…. aaaahhhhhh…. I completely organized and deep cleaned our house and re-arranged a bunch of our furniture.  My hubby and I went out on several dinner and lunch dates and even skipped our workouts and went straight for the sauna and hot tub at the gym.  I needed that time so much to rejuvenate me.  And now that my sweet, crazy boys are home, their yelling and fighting is met with a much softer, more understanding mommy.

So, I’m sure many of you are asking “What in tar-nation is Orzo?” Am I right? Okay, maybe you didn’t use the word “tar-nation.”  For those of you who have never heard of Orzo, it’s time you experienced the wonderfully versatile pasta that is shaped like a slightly larger grain of rice.  You can find it in any grocery store in the pasta aisle or some grocers carry it in their bulk section.  On of my friends (Miss Katie) also makes a killer cold Orzo salad with cucumbers and feta and some kind of dressing… yumola!

This recipe is one of our family’s favorites because it tastes a lot like the Rice-O-Roni (“the San Fransisco Treat!” …maybe I am dating myself a bit here..) but waaaaayyyy better.  Anyways, bottom line, Rice-O-Roni tastes delish in a Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese kind of way but it is one of those boxed food items that probably has more preservatives and terrible stuff for you in it than it does good stuff.  Here is where the boxed treat meets gourmet. This recipe would go over as a side with just about any meal from burgers to roasted lamb.  It’s fabulous and just as fast as the boxed stuff.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp butter

1 cup uncooked Orzo pasta

1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth – or 2 tsp chicken base and slightly less than 2 cups of water.

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or 1 and 1/2 Tbsp dried basil)

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil and Parmesan for garnishing

Directions:

Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Stir in Orzo and saute until lightly browned.

Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. If you are using dried basil, add it now, if using fresh, wait.  Cover.  Reduce heat and simmer until Orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.

Mix in Parmesan cheese and basil (if using fresh).  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to shallow bowl.  Garnish with fresh basil sprigs and shaved Parmesan.

As always, I like to give credit where credit is due.  I found this recipe a few years back on allrecipes.com, submitted by DODIEPAJER.

Succulent Crab Cakes

As the season of summer is coming to a close and school is on the horizon, I find myself a little sad that the chapter of our lives where the boys are at home during the days are coming to a close.  Wyatt will be starting first grade and Henry will be starting preschool 3 days per week.  But in all total honesty, summer is making me a tad crazy.  My boys love each other and for the most part play very well together but something about being together every single day for months on end is wearing on them.  I think they have been fighting more than getting along lately and it is making this momma feel frazzled.  Have you ever yelled at your kids to stop yelling??? Did that today.  One of those things that as soon as it comes out of your mouth, you think “Did I seriously just do that?” They were fighting in the car so loud that I yelled even louder “SSTOOOP  YELLING!!!” Haha! Good example I set today for them.  One of those finer moments as a mom where you really shine 😉

Okay on to good food…One thing is for certain… I LOVE crab! I love the anticipation of cracking all of the legs and getting to little nuggets of salty, sweet meat.  I have to say, as much as I love fresh crab, crab cakes take it to another level and are seriously one of the best foods on the planet (in my opinion of course).  The secret to a great crab cake is lots of crab and not much in the way of other fillers.  Simplicity is key.

If you are buying crab that is still in the shell (crab legs), please know that the weight ratio is about 1/2 meat, 1/2 shell.  So, if you want 1 lb of meat, you need to buy 2 lbs of crab legs.

Ingredients:

8 saltine crackers

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard

1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1/4 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

1 egg, beaten

salt to taste

1 pinch cayenne pepper

1 lb crab meat

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs or Panko breading

2 Tbsp butter

 

Directions:

Crush saltine crackers.  Add mayo, Dijon, Old Bay, Worcestershire, egg, salt, and cayenne.  Mix thoroughly.  Fold in crab being very careful not to break up the chunks.  The bigger the chunks of crab, the better.  Refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow the ingredients to absorb.

Make patties as large or small as you desire.  They will be very fragile since there aren’t many fillers.  Place crab cake on top of a bed of bread or Panko crumbs.  Sprinkle crumbs and pat to make them stick.  Carefully flip over and coat other side.  Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a heavy skillet (I highly recommend cast iron, but if you don’t have it, a regular pan will work fine). Heat your butter over medium-high heat until it is good and bubbly hot but not so hot that it is turning brown.  Carefully place four cakes at a time into the butter.  Let crab cake brown for several minutes before flipping. Because the egg is now solidifying, your cake will become a bit less fragile.  Be sure your crab cake is nice and brown before you flip it.  Brown the other side. The crab is already pre-cooked so you do not need to get it to a certain temperature, you are just browning the outside. Place on a paper towel in a warm place (preferably a warm oven) until all of the crab cakes are cooked.  Do not cover with foil to keep warm if you can help it because you will be allowing steam to build up, therefore making your breading soggy.  Dry heat is best.  Serve with a fresh lemon wedge and your favorite tartar sauce.

 

 

The Easiest Way To Cut A Watermelon

Watermelons can be such a pain to cut.  Most of the time you either end up scooping all of the fruit out in big uneven chunks or you use a melon-baller which leaves you with a lot of wasted melon and seems to take forever.  This way is super fast and easy and takes all of the hassle out of cutting up that big juicy melon.

 

First of all, when picking  a melon you want to always look for a melon that has a big yellow spot on one side.  This will tell you that the melon ripened on the vine (the yellow spot is where it sat on the ground).  If it is all green, chances are, it ripened off of the vine and won’t be nearly as sweet.  The next thing I do is look for a melon with “bee stings”.  These are brown lines on the melon that cause small indentions (see picture).  Evidentially bees like the sweet melons… AND if there happens to be sugar balls (looks kind of like sap) coming from these bee stings, that is said to be sugar leaking out of the melon.  I will usually find a few like these and see which is the heaviest which shows that it is extra juicy.  A lot of people knock on the melon to see if it sounds hollow which I know works but for some reason they always sound the same to me so I generally don’t use this technique.  I don’t know if this is all scientifically correct with the bees and all but I generally pick good ones using this method.

Always wash the melon.  Even though you don’t eat the rind, it usually ends up touching the same parts of the cutting board that the juicy little squares touch, plus many are imported from Mexico so I always give them a good scrub with a tiny drop of dish soap.

Alright, on to the cutting.  Using a large sharp knife, cut the melon in half.  Move one half off of the board and cut the other half in half again.

 

Now make 1″ incisions down through the whole watermelon quarter being careful not to cut too far into the rind.  Turn the watermelon 90 degrees.  Turn your knife on its side and make incisions 1″ apart through one side then turn and make the same incisions down through the other side.

Now, run your knife just inside the rind and dump the squares into your bowl.  Repeat with the rest of the quarters.

 

Grilled Wild Turkey Rolls

Since I have been the queen of slacking on my blog lately, I decided that since I had reached over 10,000 views, I really need to get back in the saddle and give all of my amazing faithful followers some more yummy recipes.  Would you believe me if I told you that I was just giving you all time to try all of my recipes for the past month so I wouldn’t overwhelm you with new recipes? ….No?… Well, it was worth a try 🙂 My camera is at maximum capacity with all of the pictures of the yummy recipes I have for you.  If I only had a little elf who could take all of the thoughts and recipes out of my head along with the pictures from my camera and post them for me.

This recipe was so off the charts-amazing! My husband, Shawn went turkey hunting in Kansas City and brought home a beautiful giant turkey.  I had no clue what to do with it as I have never cooked wild turkey before.  Word on the street was, I had to marinade the breasts, cube it and wrap it in bacon with a slice of jalapeno.  I didn’t know what marinade to use so I made one myself and the whole package was dyne-o-mite!

Of course, most of us don’t have wild turkey breasts readily available; however, I am totally convinced you could wrap anything in bacon and add a jalapeno and it would be fabulous.  I also heard that adding a little cube of cream cheese in the middle makes them Turkey Poppers *drool*.

Ingredients:

Marinade:

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp white vinegar

2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

1/2 tsp ground pepper

2 cloves minced garlic or 1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 lb thick cut peppered bacon.  You will get 2 rolls for each piece of bacon so plan accordingly with the number of mouths you will be feeding.  I ALWAYS buy my bacon at the butcher counter.  At most grocery stores, you can find super thick, meaty, peppered bacon for right around the same price (or cheaper when it’s on sale) as the pre-packaged bacon where you get 2 square inches of a window to guess if the bacon actually looks that good or if they have laid it in such a way that the only actual meat on the bacon is showing in that little window.  Seriously, that just isn’t fair.

1 can pickled, sliced jalapenos.  If you are not a big fan of super spicy stuff, get the “tamed” jalapenos.  They still have all that yummy flavor without lighting your mouth on fire.

1-1 and 1/2 lbs wild turkey breast or meat of your choice. Again, plan accordingly with your bacon slices.  You will be cutting your meat into 1 and 1/2″ cubes.  I think sirloin, chicken breast, turkey breast, and venison would all be really delicious choices.   The turkey breast I used was somewhere around 2-3 lbs so I had about 1 lb extra marinated meat I just froze for next time.

Directions:

Cut meat into 1 and 1/2″ cubes.  Mix marinade.  Let meat marinade for a minimum of 2 hours. (Seriously, check out that giant turkey breast! It took up my entire cutting board!)

Cut each piece of bacon in half.  Place one slice of jalapeno and once cube of turkey into center of bacon slice.  Tightly roll bacon over turkey and hold in place with a toothpick.

After cleaning your grill, heat grill to medium heat (around 300-350 degrees).  Place rolls on sides and cook slowly turning every few minutes.  Be sure to keep a spray bottle handy because you will be chasing flare-ups from the bacon grease the entire time.  Once, the bacon is fully cooked, your meat should also be fully cooked.  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.  If you are making these for party favors, they will stay plenty juicy in a warm oven until ready to serve.  They are also really amazing the next day so don’t throw out your leftovers!

Simply Delicious Vegetable Barley Soup

A few weeks ago, I was at one of my favorite restaurants, dying to have a bowl of their always-amazing soup and a few slices of their homemade bread.  I asked what their “Soup of the Day” was and as she said “Cream of Broccoli and Vegetable Barley,” I felt the wind quickly escape my sales.   Neither of them sounded good to me since I have never been a big broccoli fan and though I had never had it, the barley soup just didn’t sound appealing.  I was really hoping for German Potato or Clam Chowder… something hearty, but I reluctantly ordered the vegetable barley soup because I like their homemade bread and real butter so much.  I was so glad I ordered it because I LOVED it!  I attempted to replicate it tonight and was so excited when I took my first bite.  I actually liked it even more than the soup I was served at the restaurant.  It is really savory and  surprisingly hearty, but really healthy at the same time.  This was a quick soup to throw together, however, it does have to cook for 90 minutes so it takes a little while to get to the end product.  I’m sure this would be great in the crock pot too.

Ingredients:

8 cups water

2 Tbsp chicken base (or use 8 cups chicken broth)

1 cup uncooked barley

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 tsp paprika

3 bay leaves

Directions:

Prepare all vegetables.  In a large pot, combine hot water and chicken base (or broth).  Add barley, chopped vegetables and spices.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then cover and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 90 minutes.  Feel free to add more veggies if you please (stewed tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, green beans, etc.)  Also, beans and/or some pre-cooked beef would be great additions as well.